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Queen Elizabeth II Look-Alike Was 96

Queen Elizabeth II Look-Alike Was 96

Jeannette Charles, the Queen Elizabeth II look-alike who played the British monarch for laughs in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, in the first Naked Gun movie and in the last Austin Powers film, has died. She was 96.

Charles’ death at a hospice facility in Great Beddow, Essex, was announced by her daughter, Carol Christophi.

“Mum was a real character and a force of nature. She had an amazing life,” she said. “She was always respectful of the Queen and adored the Royal Family.”

Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, also at age 96.

Charles spent more than four decades doubling for the head of state before she wound down her career in 2014.

“I think the first time I was recognized [as the queen] was on a trip [in 1971] to Capri in Italy, with my Italian pen friend Florence,” she recalled in a 2012 interview. “Someone shouted ‘Princess Elizabeth’ in Italian, my friend explained her majesty had been to visit the island recently, and they thought I was her.”

Soon, this “ordinary wife and mother to three children” was posing for posters and appearing at the opening of local shops and on children’s TV shows.

“I did quite a few comedy sketches, including one with the Two Ronnies [on Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett’s BBC show] where I put a milk bottle out and either side of me were the Royal Guards. They were shows I really admired. I got myself an agent and my career snowballed from there.”

She noted that she and Elizabeth shared a “very similar [facial] bone structure, and their voices sounded the same.”

As her majesty, Charles greeted Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo) on the palace receiving line in National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985); was straddled by Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) and threw out a wicked first pitch at a baseball game in The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad! (1988); and knighted Mike Myers‘ spy in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

She didn’t accept every acting opportunity that came her way, however.

“I was offered a sketch by Sacha Baron Cohen,” she said. “I won’t say what it was, but he wanted me to do something so offensive that I turned it down. If I hadn’t had the utmost respect for royalty, I don’t think I would have been given the jobs I have been.”

Jeannette Charles and Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Charles was born on Oct. 15, 1927, about 18 months after Elizabeth. “Ever since I can remember, I have been told I looked like the young Princess Elizabeth, and this carried on as we both grew up,” she said.

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After acting in repertory theater, Charles moved at age 24 to the U.S., where she worked as a secretary in Texas and met her future husband, Kenneth, a British Petroleum executive. They were married in Calgary, Alberta, and resided in Libya before fleeing in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s coup d’etat in 1969.

In 1971, an artist who had painted Charles’ portrait as a birthday present for her husband wrote about her resemblance to Elizabeth in the local newspaper, the Essex Chronicle, and that led to her being interviewed on a TV talk show hosted by Russell Harty. “After that, the phones never stopped ringing!” she said.

She took elocution lessons and said it took her “four weeks to perfect being the queen,” she told the Daily Express in 2017. “I focused on three main areas: entering, talking and leaving. The best piece of advice I got was that when I was facing an audience, I should look over them, not at them. That stood me in good stead.”

Charles went on to work alongside Eric Idle on Saturday Night Live and in the 1978 telefilm The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash and show up on other programs like The Benny Hill Show, Spike Milligan’s Q6, The Redd Foxx Show, MythBusters and Big Brother. Her job took her from Mexico to South Africa.

About that Naked Gun scene with Nielsen, she said: “I had no idea Leslie was going to do what he did, so the look of shock on my face is entirely genuine. I was more worried about the audience seeing my knickers.”

Her autobiography, The Queen and I, was published in 1986. She had three children, David, Peter and Carol, with her husband, who died in 1997.

Charles never did say whether she and Elizabeth had ever met but hinted in her Daily Express interview that the queen was a fan. “Let’s put it this way,” she said, “I wouldn’t have been doing this for as long as I have if she wasn’t.”

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